Church Action on Poverty has strongly condemned a proposal being considered by the Labour party which would reward people who inform on benefit ‘cheats’.
Ed Miliband MP is considering whether to include in Labour’s manifesto a policy which would allow people who inform on benefit ‘cheats’ to be given a share of the resulting savings. Like many other organisations who work with people on benefits and low incomes, Church Action on Poverty is concerned that this idea would be harmful for communities and do nothing to tackle poverty or inequality.
Church Action on Poverty Coordinator, Niall Cooper, commented today (9 February 2010): “We are appalled to hear of politicians considering such negative and dangerous approaches in order to chase votes in the General Election. Encouraging people to inform on their neighbours will cause divisions in communities that are already struggling with the unemployment and poverty caused by the recession. We know that people are already being criminalised as ‘benefit fraudsters’ simply for struggling to support their families in difficult circumstances."
Mr Cooper continue: “This is exactly the opposite of the kind of policy that is needed to tackle the appalling gap between rich and poor in this country. When will we hear of policies which do something to help people who are trapped in poverty and unemployment, rather than stigmatising them all as cheats and scroungers? And why are no incentives offered for informing on wealthy tax evaders, who cost our economy many times more than the tiny number of benefit ‘cheats’?”
Many of the people who commit benefit ‘fraud’ are working cash-in-hand to support their families because, under the current welfare system and minimum wage, conventional employment is often not a viable route out of poverty.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates that £25 billion annually is lost to the UK from tax avoidance: £13 billion from tax avoidance by individuals and £12 billion from avoidance by corporations. This is 25 times higher than the amount lost due to benefit ‘fraud’.
Church Action on Poverty is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK. It works in partnership with churches and with people in poverty themselves to find solutions locally, nationally and globally.
CAP and Oxfam have produced a report on the criminalisation of people on benefits, entitled 'Invisible Workers: The Informal Economy'. It can be downloaded at www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/ukpoverty/downloads/invisible_workers_the_inf....
The church campaigning group is also involved in the 'Need NOT Greed' campaign: www.neednotgreed.org.uk